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Harassment of many types has been an issue that gamers and game developers have had to deal with for a long time now. Maybe you’ve experienced it yourself. You’re playing along in an online competitive game, having a good time, and you say something in team chat. Immediately some nincompoop starts hurling snide or hysterical insults at you, either through voice chat or text. And they’re not just garden variety trash talk. These insult directly target your gender. Or your race. Or your age. Or your sexual orientation. Hell, maybe all of the above if it’s a particularly bad run on sentence.
Or maybe you’re browsing your favorite messageboards or subreddits when you come across someone like you being made fun in a similar way. Or even just nasty comments thrown out there to a appreciative audience by someone who used to be your favorite Twitch or YouTube streamer. It’s not a stretch. The universe’s most popular YouTube star Pewtiepie has repeatedly gotten in trouble for off the cuff and premedetated racial slurs, and tens of millions of people listen to him when he does it.
And given that this podcast is about the psychology of video games, we must eventually come to the question about what psychology can tell us about harassment in video games. What can various theories about social psychology tell us about under what conditions harassment is most likely to happen, what the consequences of harassment are for a community, and what game developers and other players can do to curb it. And what specifically have psychologists discovered about sexual harassment and similar misconduct in the context of video games? Is that something that people even study? Going further, could we keep our eyes open to other academic fields like communications, sociology, social psychology, or criminology to understand this phenomenon?
These are the kinds of questions I will explore with my guest expert on this episode of the psychology of games podcast, Wai Yen Tang, Ph.D. He’s an academic studying psychology, communication, and video games, especially as related to aggression, helping, and harassment in gaming communities.
About This Episode’s Guest: